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Natraj is one of the names of the Hindu god, Shiva, the most revered god in this ancient religion.  The image of Natraj is also known as "dancing Shiva".  Shiva is frequently pictured with his bull, Nandi and his consort, Parvati who is worshipped as Kali or Durga.  Historians believe that Hinduism was the religion brought to the sub-continent of India by Aryan invaders around the times period spanning from 1,400 to 500 BC, nearly 5,000 years ago.  We do not know a lot about these invaders in that they remain the source of much mystery and speculation. 

We categorize Hinduism as a polytheistic religion, meaning there are many gods and goddesses that are worshipped, each with their own responsibility for some aspect of the workings of our vast universe and in the lives of their followers.  The three most prominent gods worshipped in Hinduism are Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva, also known as Natraj (the destroyer).  Similar to the Bible in Christianity, the Hindu religion is based on a set of moral codes, which were originally in the form of 1,000 religious hymns or poems and published in a work called the Vedas or "Books of Knowledge". 

Natraj is sometimes referred to as "the dancer of creation, lord of joy and sorrow."  The dancing image captured in popular statues is meant to symbolize life's ebb and flow.  It also reminds us of the balance between form and void, as well as the time before the divine created form from the void.  The statues of Natraj are framed by a circle representing cosmic energy.  If you look closely at a status of this Hindu god, you will see that Natraj stands upon a demon, which symbolizes triumph over spiritual ignorance. 

Why does Shiva have this other name - Natraj?  In the Hindu religion, each of the gods may have incarnations that possess different qualities.  What does this mean?  Think about how hard it is to describe the Christian God, we just say that He's 'all powerful' or 'omnipotent' to make it easy.  This is in many ways the same concept operating here. 

A divine being has so many good qualities that it is difficult for us as humans to imagine them all in one place or person.  In the case we are discussing, the many names of Shiva, the different good qualities that followers imagine a god to have actually end up having different incarnations.  In some cases, the qualities may be represented by different gods or goddesses all together.  Therefore, Shiva was based on different qualities he is attributed with having, and has different names with Natraj being one of them. 

Shiva-Natraj is said to be the god of artistic skill, which is one attribute that attracts those who worship the cult of Shiva, which extends from India into modern Nepal.  There are other forms of Shiva in addition to Natraj.  Another popular form depicts Shiva with a small drum and a trident.  If you travel in India in an area where Shiva is worshipped, you may see devotees carrying tridents.  They may also smear their bodies with ashes. 

The different gods and goddesses and their incarnations are also associated with their own companions and traveling animals.  Depending on the name, the appearance they have and company they can be found in will be different.  With the three major gods and nearly one million lesser gods and goddesses, you would imagine there would be a lot of conflict between people drawn to different forms of worship. 

This is an interesting aspect of Hinduism, which is the religion of nearly 80% of the population of India.  One of the primary teachings of this religion is tolerance, so it is not unusual to have a temple dedicated to Shiva and a temple dedicated to the Elephant god, Ganesh very close to one another.  If you were a Hindu, you might be a follower of Kali and your friend a devotee of Ganesh with no problems.


 

The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
The Terracotta Army Along the Silk Road
 
Brass Natraj
Gold Leaf Painted ~ 10 Inch Turnip Vase
Gold Leaf Lacquer
Pair of 10 Inch Closionne Vases
Cloisonne
Pair of Brass Foo Dogs
Brass & Bronze
Inside Painted Boxes
 
 

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